IS THE JUSTICE SYSTEM REALLY JUST?
Written by: Anele Nduzulwana
According to the Oxford Dictionary, justice can be defined as the punishment of wrong and protection of rights while all legal systems aim to uphold this ideal through proper administration of Law.
This definition appears to be one that is suitable in defining justice as a tool that protects the rights of people by holding offenders rightfully accountable.
The judgement handed down on the widely followed Oscar Pistorius’s murder trial, however, was criticized by a lot of people who publicly described it as being favorable to the offender.
Many people were of the view that the accused got away with murder, and therefore justice was not rightfully served in this case.
Nhlakanipho Nkosi, a student at Durban University of Technology said that the Justice System in South Africa has never been fair as it favors the wealthy.
He said Sibusiso Gcabashe was sentenced to 22 years for impersonating the late Maskandi Musician, Khulekani “Mgqumeni” Khumalo.
“Pistorius’s case was more serious than Gcabashe’s case because he took a life, he did not just fake an identity,” said Nkosi.
Philani Mthembu from Cato Crest said that he was not surprised by the outcome of the case as the country’s very own president has been linked to many criminal activities.
“It’s not only justice system but the entire constitution that is a crap. Many criminals commit crime and get away with it,” said Mthembu.
Mthembu added that no one was held directly accountable for the Marikana Massacre, for example, which saw many lives being lost.
Pistorius was sentenced to six years imprisonment for the murder of his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp. However, he is expected to be eligible for parole in three years.
Legal Aid Board Attorney in Durban, Smanga Mlontshwa said that he does not think that the justice system is not just, nor would he say it favors criminals more than the victim, adding that the justice system cannot be judged based on one case because all cases are different. Each case is dealt with in its own Merits.
“You kill someone, and your facts would not be the same as Pistorius’s case,” said Mlontshwa.
“There are cases where people have been given life sentences and if someone gets a life sentence it’s good for the public, but if it’s a sentence that the public does not like, it’s bad,” he said.
Mlontshwa added that there are a number of people who have been given less sentences for Murder, with some of them even getting less than three years.
Former American football player, actor and broadcaster O.J Simpson’s case was almost similar to Pistorius’s trial.
Simpson was acquitted for the murder of his wife Nicole Brown Simpson and a friend Ronald Goldman in 1995. The trial was the most publicized in the American history.
Pistorius’ trial was the most publicized case. Not just in South Africa, but in the whole world.
Mlontshwa concluded by saying that the court may take into account the interest of the public but what the public says cannot influence the court’s decision.
Law Researcher Rudo Chitapi said Masipa’s account of decision followed recognized and accepted principles of sentencing law in South Africa.
“Discretion to decide a sentence plays a wide role in sentencing procedure. Nevertheless, Courts have held that the discretion afforded to judicial officers in sentencing is to be exercised judicially. That means courts are to exercise their discretion properly and reasonably,” said Chitapi to Eye Witness.
Alexandra Wingate took to Twitter on behalf of the African National Women’s league saying that “The judgement is an insult to women. It sends the wrong Message.”
Loso Mjobo from Johannesburg tweeted “Is it a race thing, assets owned or even the disability that the judgement fell so low on everyone’s anticipation?”
Regardless of the opinions brought forward by law experts, many people remain dissatisfied with the sentence, hence raising the question of how just is South African justice system if it’s judgement does not meet the expectation of civil society?
Caption: South African Court of Arm posted on the Wall of Durban Magistrate Court